Diabetes and Eyesight Loss – Can Antioxidants Help?

May 20, 2020

 

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing serious health problems, including diabetic retinopathy – one of the leading causes of blindness in the global working age population. Early detection through regular eye checks is critical to prevent diabetic retinopathy, which is linked to high levels of blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol, and to seek timely treatment.

 

Many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes are linked to oxidative stress within the body. That’s when the reactive oxygen species – also identified as free radicals – accumulate in the body over time, resulting in chronic inflammation. Factors that may lead to a person’s risk of long-term oxidative stress are obesity, diets high in fat, sugar and processed foods, exposure to pollution, UV light and radiation, smoking, alcohol consumption, exposure to pesticides and industrial chemicals and emotional stress.

 

While it is impossible to completely avoid free radical exposure and oxidative stress, there are several things you can do to minimize the effects of oxidative stress on your body. One is to increase the levels of antioxidants and which can reduce the risk of eye diseases and NCDs. Consuming a variety of whole, unprocessed and fresh foods gives us the right amount of essential nutrients. Antioxidant nutrients may not cure diabetic retinopathy, but they may help to promote the overall retinal health and reduce the chance of developing retinal damage.

 

Eating five servings per day of a variety of fruits and vegetables, like dark leafy greens, citrus fruits and berries, is said to go a long way to provide your body what it needs to produce antioxidants. Some vitamins are also proven to help, i.e., vitamin C, vitamin E, and particularly vitamin A, that has a crucial role in helping to maintain clear vision. Zinc and magnesium are two other essential nutrients that can possibly help to protect your eyes. Some also maintain that  Omega-3  may reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. You can receive this nutrient from flaxseed and fish oil, which is rich with these beneficial types of fatty acids. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider about your specific dietary needs.

 

Another source of antioxidants that has caught the attention of some researchers and scientists is astaxanthin. Astaxanthin (3,3’-dihydroxy-β,β’-carotene-4,4’- dione, AST) is a naturally-occurring carotenoid reported to have a wide variety of biological functions, including anti-inflammatory, antiapoptosis, antioxidant (10 times higher than that of other carotenoids), anti-cancer, and neuroprotective effects. Astaxanthin is normally present in certain marine species such as salmon, crabs and shrimps but has also recently been found to occur naturally in abundance within the haematococcus pluvialis freshwater microalgae. It’s part of the carotenoid family, which means it may be beneficial for the eyes as well as other organ cells in the body. Astaxanthin seems to be particularly effective in improving blood capillary circulation in the eyes.

 

Those who plan to consume astaxanthin should choose the natural, plant-based form, as it is scientifically proven through clinical studies done in human trials, which contains higher antioxidant strength. Be sure to follow this good general advice from Dr. Yen Siew Siang, an ophthalmologist at the Eye Specialist Centre in Klang, Malaysia: “The key to a healthy life still lies mainly in a balanced dietary intake, regular physical activity, adequate good sleep, and ability to cope with emotional stress.”

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ARE YOU GAMBLING WITH YOUR VISION?

April 16, 2020

 

Vision impairment and blindness due to diabetes can be prevented in 95% of the cases. A wealth of scientific studies shows that early detection of diabetic retinopathy, one of the leading causes of blindness in the global working age population, is crucial to ensure timely treatment to avoid permanent visual loss. As presented in the recent World Vision Report, the World Health Organization estimates that there are around 146 million people living with varying stages of diabetic retinopathy in the world today.

 

The COVID-19 crisis is also having potentially devastating impact on global eye health by delaying the eye screening of millions of people, which will result in enormous backlogs when life gets back to normal. In Australia, ophthalmologists have raised their concerns that due to the COVID-19 crisis patients are skipping crucial eye treatment appointments. Without the treatment, there’s a high risk that people will go blind or suffer significant vision loss, which is often irreversible.

 

As we covered in a previous blog, national diabetic retinopathy screening programs were introduced in the early 1990s and quickly succeeded in reducing cases of vision loss due to diabetes. The benefit of screening for DR utilizing retinal photography has been demonstrated in several countries in Europe, Scandinavia and Iceland. A few years ago, the United Kingdom declared that diabetic retinopathy was no longer the most common cause of blindness thanks to the introduction of annual screening programme.

 

However, resources for nationwide screening programmes remain scarce in many countries. Even where national eye screening programmes exist, the frequency of invited screening and uptake by those individuals who most need to attend is compromised by a lack of resources and by poor understanding by some patients of the importance of regular eye screening. But what are the key barriers to diabetic retinopathy screening and what can be done to improve attendance rates?

 

According to the DR Barometer Report, the most prominent obstacles are a dearth of knowledge about diabetes-related eye complications and lack of awareness about the importance of eye examination and early detection. In some cases, the cited hurdles was shortage of time and limited family support, along with financial barriers and the difficulty of travelling to appointments because of distance from the clinic.

 

The lack of skilled staff and limited access to diabetic retinopathy imaging and treatment infrastructure were among other challenges cited. A series of environmental and systemic barriers such as the high cost of services, long delays to schedule an appointment and long wait times on the day of the appointment also impacted the ability of adults with diabetes to get accurate and timely advice and care they need.

 

Recommendations for addressing these impediments include increased and tailored outreach to individuals with diabetes, easier access to screening through telemedicine and mobile units and better integration of screening services with primary care and diabetes care so that patients can access eye care during their periodic visits. Screening programmes must fully understand their patients, their sensitivities and challenges and must cater to the needs of the population if the desired outcome is meant to be achieved.

 

The clinically validated RetinaRisk algorithm is uniquely positioned to raise awareness about diabetic retinopathy risk and the importance of early detection. The RetinaRisk app empowers people with diabetes to assess and monitor their individualized risk of developing sight-threatening eye disease in the next 12 months. RetinaRisk can help healthcare providers by identifying high-risk patients who need immediate medical attention.  Our clinical and real-life studies have demonstrated that risk profiling increases the screening frequency of high-risk patients, while low-risk patients are spared from unnecessary clinical visits, without compromising clinical safety.  RetinaRisk telemedicine solution that offers a personalized approach to ensure that the right persons receives the right care at the right time in an efficient and economically cost-effective way.

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“I Became Blind Because of Diabetes”

February 26, 2020

 

 

It is a little-known fact that diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. This is especially true among the working age population, since after living with diabetes for 20 years the risk of developing sight-threatening eye disease increases significantly.

 

Diabetic Retinopathy damages the small blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye — the part that detects light and sends signals to the brain through the optic nerve. It commonly affects both eyes and can lead to vision loss if it is not treated.

 

Meet Neill Hansell, an Australian who went to bed one night and woke up blind the next day. His video is powerful and moving. Another striking example is Leonie Watson who lost her sight in her 20s after ignoring doctors’ advice about her diabetes for years. “I became blind over the course of 12 months from late 1999 to the end of 2000. It was mostly my fault” she said in an interview with the BBC in 2015.

 

Anyone with diabetes can get diabetic retinopathy — including people with Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes. It is estimated that there are 149 million people worldwide with diabetic retinopathy and of those, around 47 million with sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy. These dramatic numbers are expected to exceed 245 million people with diabetic retinopathy and 77 million with sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy by 2045.

 

The early stages of diabetic retinopathy are often asymptomatic. Some people notice changes in their vision, like trouble reading or seeing faraway objects. In later stages of the disease, blood vessels in the retina start to bleed into the vitreous, leading to dark, floating spots or streaks appearing. Sometimes, the spots clear up on their own but it’s important to get treatment right away as without treatment, the bleeding can happen again and get worse.

 

Diabetes damages blood vessels all over the body. Over time, too much sugar in the blood can lead to the blockage of the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, cutting off its blood supply. As a result, the eye attempts to grow new blood vessels, but these new blood vessels don’t develop properly and can leak easily.

 

Given that the majority of vision impairment from diabetic retinopathy is avoidable through early detection and timely treatment, periodic screening among individuals with diabetes has long been endorsed by the World Health Organization and others. Eye doctors can check for diabetic retinopathy as part of a dilated eye exam. The exam is simple and painless — your doctor will give you some eye drops to dilate your pupil and then check your eyes for diabetic retinopathy and other eye problems. Timely treatment of sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy with laser or other interventions is highly effective in preventing vision impairment or blindness.

 

The RetinaRisk app is a unique and revolutionary tool that can be instrumental in preventing diabetic retinopathy. The free RetinaRisk app allows people with diabetes to assess and monitor their individualized risk of developing sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy and seek early diagnosis and timely treatment. Together, we will be able to eliminate preventable blindness due to diabetes.

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What Problems Can Laser Eye Surgery Solve?

January 16, 2020 - David Allamby

 

This is a guest post from David Allamby of  Focus Clinics, London, England

 

Over recent years, the public demand for laser eye surgery has risen, with an approximated 30-50 million procedures being performed worldwide.

 

We’ve witnessed significant technological advancements over the last 30 years, ultimately this provides eye surgeons with a greater understanding about who makes a great candidate for treatment.

 

Myopia

 

Myopia is a short-sighted refractive error that’s inherited from your parents and develops between the ages of eight and 12. Myopia is a widespread cause of poor eyesight and affects an estimated 1 in 3 people in the UK.

 

If you’re myopic, it’s important that you attend regular eye examinations because eyes with severe cases of myopia have an increased risk of retinal detachment compared to non-myopic eyes.

 

Myopia can be treated with LASIK surgery, which involves a small flap being cut into the cornea to remove some tissue with a laser and reshape the cornea. The corneal flap is placed back in position to allow for healing.

 

Diabetic Retinopathy

 

Laser treatment is used to slow the growth of new blood vessels at the retina. This treatment is suitable for proliferative diabetic retinopathy and to stabilise cases of maculopathy. The most important outcome is that your diabetes is under control.

 

Eye injections are used to treat sight-threatening maculopathy and eye surgery removes blood or scar tissue from the eye if laser treatment isn’t possible due to advanced retinopathy.

 

Laser treatment usually takes around 20-40 minutes and is carried out on an outpatient basis This surgery prevents new blood vessels from bleeding into the eye.

 

Hyperopia

 

Hyperopia appears when the cornea’s curve is too small or if the eye is too short from front to back, which causes a refractive error where the image is focused beyond the retina.

 

Similar to myopia, hyperopia can be treated using the LASIK procedure. Hyperopia and Myopia can also be treated with Photorefractive Keratectomy. PRK is an option for patients who are unsuitable for LASIK.

 

The key difference between is that rather than creating a corneal flap, a thin layer of the cornea is removed before reshaping begins. Overall, the decision of which procedure will be most suited is dependent on personal anatomy.

 

Cataracts

 

Cataract surgery removed the cloudy lens through a small incision in the eye and replacing it with a clear, plastic one, known as an intraocular lens (IOL).

 

The surgical approach for the various types of cataract involved 3 main steps. The natural cloudy cataract lens is removed from behind the iris. Once all of the lens material is removed, the clear capsular bag will be the new home for the IOL. When the lens has been injected into the capsular bag, the surgeon will manipulate the IOL so that it’s seated in the correct position.

 

Summary

 

The benefits of laser eye surgery outweigh the chances of complications.

 

The invention of new technology have revolutionised the landscape of complications. LASIK is not only the most common form of laser eye surgery, but it’s also the safest.

 

The principal factor when considering laser eye surgery is your eye health before the procedure.

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Poverty, Obesity and Eyesight Loss – A Worrying Triple Link

December 19, 2019 - Ray Snider

 

Obesity, like diabetes, has reached epidemic proportions in many countries. Poor diet, obesity and type 2 diabetes are heightened risk factors for a range of conditions including glaucoma, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy — one of the leading causes of blindness in the working population.

 

Numerous studies on the ocular manifestations of obesity support an association between obesity and risk of age-related cataracts; obesity may be a risk factor for many ocular conditions, including retinopathy. What is clear is that the eyes are put under increased strain from high blood pressure, oxidative stress and disordered lipid metabolism, which are all associated with weight levels above guidelines.

 

Let’s look at one nation where this link is all too prevalent:  Mexico. According to a survey conducted by the Mexican National Public Health Institute, obesity rates have increased, particularly in towns with populations below 100,000 – where 80% of Mexico’s poorest people live. It found that 15.3% of children aged between 5 and 11 in such towns were obese in 2018 compared to 12.4% in 2012. Among adolescents, the obesity rate rose to 14.2% last year from 10.5% in 2012, while the rate among adults increased to 33.6% from 31%. The survey found that the prevalence of obesity continues to be higher among women.

Mexico’s mega-capital city is not immune. A recent “Cities Changing Diabetes”  Vulnerability Assessment found that 14% of adults in Mexico City live with type 2 diabetes, with a significant percentage of the population impacted in the prime of their working life (age 30–59). The highest prevalence is among those aged 60-69, at 38.8%. Almost 63% of people with diagnosed diabetes reported complications related to their eyesight.

 

Moving to the USA, a 2018 CDC report found that the American South has a far heavier percentage of individuals living with vision problems and vision loss than the rest of the country. This is linked to a higher levels of poverty, as well as diabetes and other chronic diseases.  The CDC also found that the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the U.S. are in a “diabetes belt” in 15 mostly Southern states (where more than 40% of food-insecure households in America live, according to US government data) and where a third of the people were classified as obese, compared to 26% in the rest of the country.

 

Experts in the United Kingdom point to a lack of awareness of the elevated risk to sight from being overweight. “…When you inform a patient that their high blood pressure may be the cause of their retinal vein occlusion, they are often mystified,” says Ananth Viswanathan, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. “People tend to dwell on the secondary effects of obesity…. But there needs to be awareness of the risks to eye health, particularly as vision is the sense most people treasure,” he added.

 

There is hope in the fight against increased levels of sight loss due to obesity and diabetes: diabetes.co.uk and others tell us that the process can be slowed down and even reversed with lifestyle changes. As Dr. Viswanathan said: “We have seen cases of the eye repairing itself when those levels reduce with a low carb diet and exercise.”

 

Our bottom line: Remember that what is good for your body is good for your eyes. Don’t think of the eyes in isolation….

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Importance of blood pressure on diabetic complications

November 18, 2019 - Dr Jyothi Shenoy

 

It is quite common for persons living with diabetes to develop hypertension and vice versa. In fact, in many cases, patients are diagnosed with hypertension during their routine visits to a doctor for diabetes control. Hypertension – or elevated blood pressure – puts extra strain on your blood vessels and can critically increase your risk of developing coronary artery disease, heart failure, chronic kidney disease and diabetes. The link between hypertension and diabetes needs to be evaluated carefully in order to control both these conditions. Here is a brief discussion about how diabetes and hypertension are linked.

 

How does diabetes cause hypertension?

 

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce an adequate amount of a hormone called insulin needed to metabolize carbohydrates. As a result, glucose can not enter the body cells to provide energy and tends to get accumulated in the blood. Persistently high levels of sugars in the blood result in widespread damage to the blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. These organs play a role in maintaining normal blood pressure. Damage to these organs hampers the body’s ability to control blood pressure thus increasing the risk of

hypertension.

How does hypertension cause diabetes?

 

Changes in the production of cortisol and antidiuretic hormone associated with hypertension can result in an imbalance in the levels of other hormones in the body such as insulin and thyroid hormones. Hypertension can also cause damage to the body tissues as it reduces the supply of oxygen and vital nutrients to the cells and tissues. This can affect the ability of insulin receptors to respond to the insulin produced in the pancreas and lower the effectiveness of insulin for reducing blood sugar levels. This is how patients with hypertension develop high glucose levels resulting in diabetes.

 

What is the link between diabetes and hypertension?

 

Similar risk factors

 

What makes persons with diabetes type 2 more prone to develop hypertension is that diabetes and hypertension share common risk factors. Obesity, high cholesterol levels, mental stress, sedentary habits, and an unhealthy diet known to trigger the development of diabetes can also increase the risk of hypertension. Hence, diabetic care should include taking steps to control weight, reduce cholesterol, regular exercises, and eating a nutritionally balanced diet. Adopting these measures along with the regular use of anti-diabetic drugs can help them control diabetes while preventing hypertension.

 

Effect on eyesight

 

Both diabetes and hypertension are known to affect the eyesight of a person through different mechanisms. Diabetes causes narrowing of the retinal blood vessels due to which patients can develop diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes is also linked to a higher risk of cataracts. Similarly, hypertension can affect the patient’s vision by triggering damage to the blood vessels in the retinal tissue. Hence, eye care must form an integral part of a comprehensive treatment of diabetes and hypertension.

 

Conclusion

 

Persons diagnosed with diabetes need to understand what makes them more prone to develop hypertension. It is uncontrolled diabetes that can specifically increase the risk of hypertension and its complications such as diabetic retinopathy. This is why persons living with diabetes are advised to take medications regularly and follow appropriate dietary and lifestyle guidelines as recommended by healthcare providers. This will not only help to control their blood sugar levels but also reduce their risk of hypertension.

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Treatment options for diabetic retinopathy

November 8, 2019

 

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications caused by diabetes. If left untreated, it may affect the eyesight of the patient resulting in blindness. The latest scientific research studies have led to improved outcomes in the management of this condition. Below is a brief discussion about the latest treatments available to patients.

 

Below are some of the possible treatments for diabetic retinopathy

 

Lasers therapy

 

Laser treatment generally targets the damaged tissues of the eyes including the retina. Laser therapies offer more effective results in the management of retinopathies as the rays can directly work on the damaged retinal tissues through spot welding and photocoagulation. [1]

 

Laser therapies can also help to eliminate the abnormal blood vessels formed due to neovascularization. These treatments are recommended for patients with moderate to severe diabetic retinopathy. It can help to destroy the non-essential tissues along the periphery of the retina thereby reducing the production of VEGF (Vascular endothelial growth factor) and improving the blood supply to the central retina.

 

Laser therapy of the peripheral retina can allow blood to bypass this region and provide extra nourishment to the central part of the retina. Thus, the resulting boost in the supply of oxygen and nutrients helps to maintain cellular health in the macula, which plays a key role in supporting clarity of vision and color perception.

 

Depending on the specific symptoms and the extent of diabetic retinopathy, the ophthalmologist may advise patients to opt for grid laser or panretinal laser photocoagulation. [2]

 

Corticosteroid injections

 

Local injections of corticosteroids directly or in the forms of injectable implants are recommended for the treatment of more severe forms of diabetic retinopathies such as macular edema. In some cases, a combination of laser treatment and steroidal injections may be recommended.

 

Diabetic macular edema occurs when the diabetic retinopathy worsens due to the exposure to cytokines released by the immune cells. Cytokines cause inflammation in the retina thereby contributing to the pathogenesis of macular edema.

 

Steroidal injections and implants can offer better results in treating these complications by reducing the amount of VEGF and inflammatory cytokines produced by the immune cells through a process called “downregulation. [3]

 

It should be noted that the use of steroidal injections, anti-VEGF drugs, and implants has been approved by the FDA for the management of diabetic macular edema.

 

Surgical treatments

 

Patients diagnosed with proliferative diabetic retinopathy due to vitreous hemorrhage can achieve better results with surgical treatments like vitrectomy. Laser photocoagulation therapy is not suitable for these patients as the blood can obscure the view of the retina during surgery. [4]

 

Vitrectomy is recommended when vitreous hemorrhage fails to clear in a few weeks. The procedure includes the removal of the bloody vitreous and replacing it with a gel-like material. After vitrectomy, patients may undergo laser photocoagulation for faster recovery.

 

These advanced therapies can reduce the risk of formation of scar tissues that may otherwise cause traction on the retina leading to a retinal detachment.

 

Conclusion

 

Patients diagnosed with diabetes should visit an ophthalmologist regularly to assess the health of the eye, especially the retina. Early diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy and advanced therapies can improve the prognosis and reduce the risk of complications.

 

References:

  1. https://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/16401/1/10_1159_000098254.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4398802/
  3. https://www.asrs.org/patients/retinal-diseases/33/intravitreal-injections
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3980167/
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The role of genetics in the development of diabetic retinopathy

October 30, 2019 - Jyothi Shenoy

 

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most severe complications that can occur due to the abnormal changes in the microvascular in diabetic patients. Diabetes is known to affect the blood flow to the vital organs including the heart and brain. It can also affect the tiny capillaries supplying blood to the eyes, especially the retina, causing Diabetic retinopathy.

 

If left unchecked, it can affect the eyesight of the person to the extent of causing complete or partial blindness. With the worldwide prevalence of diabetes being projected to rise substantially with every passing year, diabetic retinopathy is expected to pose a major health concern. [1]

 

Hence, efforts are being made to unravel the role of genetics in the development of this condition. The findings of research studies conducted to evaluate the role of genetics are expected to help patients take appropriate measures to inhibit the progress of this disease.

 

Epidemiological studies have indicated that the risk of diabetic retinopathy is higher in patients who suffer from uncontrolled diabetes. At the same time, intensive clinical measures to bring about glycaemic control have been shown to delay the development of this complication. [2]

 

However, it is noteworthy that some diabetic patients may develop diabetic retinopathy in spite of having good glycaemic control. Also, at times, patients with poor control over blood sugar levels have been spared of this complication.

 

These contradictory observations have led to the belief that the genetic susceptibility could be responsible for making a person prone to develop diabetic retinopathy. This means that the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy may still persist even in patients who have good control over their blood sugar levels simply due to their genetic make-up.

 

An effort was made to evaluate the functional role of genes in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy using scientific research methods such as genetic analysis and mapping the genes to biologic processes or pathways. It is found that most of the genes involved in the development of this condition contribute to its development by altering biological processes as given below:

 

  • Insulin signaling pathways can affect the receptors in the retina, which respond to the blood sugar-regulating hormone called insulin. This can result in inflammation or damage to the retina and trigger the development of retinopathy. [3]
  • Genes that control the process of formation of new blood vessels called angiogenesis can contribute to the risk of developing retinopathy. It can cause abnormal changes in the process of regulation of the size of blood vessels due to which the blood supply to the retina is reduced.
  • The genes involved in regulating the functions of the immune system can cause an increased production of pro-inflammatory substances like interleukin-6, as well as tumor necrosis factor and transforming growth factor-B. These chemicals can cause damage to the retina resulting in an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy. [4]
  • Other than these, the genes that play a role in regulating lipid metabolic processes, differentiation of neural cells and neurotrophin signaling can also contribute to a high risk of retinopathy.

 

Further analysis of these biological processes will help reveal the functions these genes affect and trigger the development of diabetic retinopathy. The identification of specific genetic factors as well as their contribution to the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy is expected to allow diabetologists to recommend a customized treatment plan to patients based on his or her specific genetical assessments. This would also help to prevent complications related to diabetic retinopathy such as visual disability and blindness.

 

References:

 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4398904/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1705856/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16567541
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5870958/
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Rest Your Eyes

September 20, 2019 - Agne Karnisauskaite

 

Everyday we stare at our computers, televisions, phones and other devices without thinking too much of the potential consequences. The Vision Council found that 80% of American adults use digital devices for more than 2 hour per day, and 59% of those experience the symptoms of eyestrain. Some days it may be difficult to avoid doing long tasks that require you to look at a screen all day, but many steps can be taken to reduce the strain it causes us.

 

Eyestrain is a condition caused by extended use of your eyes, which can result in dryness and feelings of tiredness. It is not necessarily caused only by looking at screens but can come about from driving for a long time or reading. Often it is easy to fix simply by resting your eyes, and there is little evidence to support that it contributes to long term vision loss, even though it may cause extreme di

scomfort in the moment.

 

You can tell when you are experience eyestrain when you experience symptoms such as tired and sore eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and increased sensitivity to light. There are many things that you can do to help alleviate the discomfort and we will be discussing just a few in today’s blog post.

 

Treatments

 

If you know that you will be using the computer a lot, it may be a good idea to invest in computer glasses, which are specifically designed to help block out blue light emitted from your screen, increase the contrasts and help you to focus on the screen for longer periods of time. These are most useful if you often find yourself unable to sleep after using your device.

 

If you already wear glasses, consider getting an anti-reflective coating that eliminates reflections from the front and the back surface of your lenses.

 

Other ways to avoid eye strain is to use your device in good lighting, whether it is natural or artificial. You want to be in an area that does not have bright light coming from the windows (especially if they are positioned in front of your device or behind) and avoid harsh fluorescent lighting.

 

One of the most effective ways to reduce strain is exercising your eyes. A popular technique is to use the “20-20-20” rule – every 20 minutes, focus on something that is further in the distance for around 20 seconds. This will help shift your focus onto something else than your screen.

 

Many people are unaware that when we focus on digital screens we tend to blink less, which can lead to dry eyes. Therefore, to help prevent eye strain, try and blink more! If you are still feeling dryness in your eyes, invest in ‘artificial tears’ eye drops to help moisten your eyes.

 

Utilize your breaks so that you step away from all your devices – don’t go from staring at a computer screen to staring at your phone!

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AI, Smartphones and diabetic retinopathy screening

September 10, 2019 - Agne Karnisauskaite

 

 

In one of our previous blog posts, we discussed briefly how technology will develop and aid in the screening process for diabetes patients. Today we will look more in-depth into artificial intelligence (AI) and its development in regards to screening for diabetic retinopathy (DR).

 

According to statistics, 3 billion people used smartphones around the world in 2018, with that number predicted to grow steadily over the next few years. Due to this, the focus has been shifting to develop apps and software to help users have better access to often costly procedures and increase participation in screening. We have seen a steady rise in AI technology integrating into our everyday lives, and it is a natural progression that we utilize it when it comes to our health. According to findings by Accenture, 41% of healthcare executives believe that AI will have the greatest impact on their organization over the next three years, highlighting the importance we should be placing on developing AI processes.

 

We have established over several posts that the best way to prevent vision loss due to diabetes is to detect it and treat it as early as possible. Through emerging technology that involves the combination of smartphones and artificial intelligence, we are one step closer to achieving this.

 

One of the biggest challenges of using traditional retinal cameras is that they are large and are difficult to move from one place to another. Patients need to attend clinics, which can take several days or even weeks to make an appointment, in order to be assessed and referred further. The perk of using smartphone based photography is that many people already possess the device and they can be used outside of the clinics, reducing patient waiting time for appointments. It is far easier to set up mobile clinics and process many patients over a shorter period, and by making the process more convenient, there is a greater probability of participation.

 

Another challenge is how fast the photos are processed once they have been taken. Traditionally, an ophthalmologist can take anywhere from two to seven days to examine the images, adding longer waiting times for patients who may be at risk of diabetic retinopathy and need treatment. Therefore it is necessary to create a system that takes away the strain from the ophthalmologist and helps to detect DR without the need for verification from a human. You may have guessed by now that the answer to this is AI! The software in development is called deep neural network and it is software that can “enhance and review images and provide automated grading of lesions present in DR, indicating which lesions require referral to an ophthalmologist for follow-up,”

 

Current studies on AI and smartphone photography for the retina have shown positive results – research published in 2018 showed that AI software was able to detect diabetic retinopathy more accurately from patients images than an ophthalmologist. As diabetes continues to rise, it is important to be able to screen as many patients as possible, and as fast as possible. AI technology is a great supporting tool within the health care sector, yet it still has a long way to go. The future of diabetic retinopathy screening and AI looks promising, and the rapidly developing technology is bringing us one step closer to eradicating blindness due to diabetes.

 

 

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